The Lost Art of Lounging

“Busyness is the greatest distraction from living, as we coast through our lives day after day, showing up for our obligations but being absent from ourselves, mistaking the doing for the being.” -Maria Popova

Greetings, my darlings! I hope this blog finds you in good spirits and enjoying the last few days of August.

Many of us may have just sent kids off to college, are preparing little ones to start school for the first time or maybe just getting kids organized and ready to start a new school year. For many educators, today, tomorrow or next Tuesday signals the dreaded “back to work” mentality. For those who work year round, maybe savoring the last few days of summer is your ardent mission.

Generally speaking, this is a time of year that people are cramming a lot in to their already packed days. Lounging may not necessarily be at the top of your “to do” list, but I’m here to tell you that it needs to be! Taking care of yourself is NOT selfish. It’s self-preservation!

The way I see it, is that so many people are addicted to “the art of busyness” that they have forgotten the beautiful, nurturing, nourishing, refreshing, revitalizing, inspiring and necessary “art of lounging.”

We all have responsibilities. Unfortunately though, it seems like people today tend to create much of the unnecessary busyness for themselves. Between feeling the need to be connected and reachable anytime of day or night, the incessant lure of social media feeds, and emails and news alerts repeatedly pinging at all hours, the self-imposed need to respond immediately, more and more people are spending more and more time of their day on their devices and in a perpetual state of distraction.

As a result, HUGE chunks of the average person’s day is consumed with mindless activities and stressors. All this constituting “busyness” is reaching epic and overwhelming proportions and is affecting our quality of life- how we enjoy life, how we engage in life and how we participate in social and familial settings.

All these stressors have the tendency to leave us fatigued and our nervous system in “flight or light” overdrive. More than ever we need to pause, stop, restore, replenish and return our nervous system back to “rest and digest” mode.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know that I am a self-imposed love and gratitude junkie and a HUGE proponent of self care. So it’s no secret that I consider myself to be The Queen of The Art Lounging. Yep, you heard me! And those who know me can attest to it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can busy myself as much as the next person if I allow it. And I use the word “allow” because it is a choice. I also choose to guard my energy and make my rest and relaxation a top priority. And I do so by establishing little rituals I honor that refuel me, take my nervous system out of “red alert” mode, and allow me to enjoy my own company.

Whenever I’ve had a long day or a couple of back-to-back long days), one of my favorite things to do is to be in bed SUPER early. How early? Well…hold on now….ready??? Sometimes it can be as early as 6:30 pm. (I think I may have heard a gasp or a jaw or two drop).

I make sure I’ve lit some scented candles, have soothing music playing, take a hot shower or scented oil bath, slather on the lotions and the potions and the essential oils, do about 3-4 restorative poses (sometimes just legs up the wall will do), and then slip into my comfy bed. I surround myself with my journals, magazines or a good book and just allow myself to lounge…. sans phone!

Here’s the funny thing- I recall being in my 30’s and 40’s and my mother telling me how early she was in bed, or not to worry if I called her and she didn’t answer because it meant she was already sleeping, and I would shake my head and roll my eyes. I just didn’t get it. Needless to say, now I do…wink, wink.

When fully rested, we show up for ourselves. In turn, we can show up more consciously and be present for the people in our lives. We feel more grounded and less scattered. We enjoy our life more. We are more aware of the joy and love that surrounds us. We laugh more. We take in the beauty and the nature that is around us. We enjoy our pets. We are better able to connect with others. We engage with others more easily and happily.  We feel more inspired, creative and productive. We find ourselves allocating more time to doing the things we want to do or have been putting off doing. We have the ability to discern between doing real work and busy work. We become more skillful and learn to act instead of react. We become more grateful and graceful. In a nut shell, we become fully engaged participants in the ups and downs of life while still managing to enjoy and appreciate it all!

Darlings, I encourage each and every one of you reading this to take a moment to ask yourself the following question:

What can you do to be less busy and enjoy your life more?

Here’s to you and finding what the art of lounging looks like in your own world!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

PS- Stay tuned to the next blog as I will be featuring a new Guest Blogger!

Strengthen Your Attention Muscle

“In the rush of modern-day life, it’s easy to push aside small concerns and fail to notice you’re no longer your old, happy self.”

Hello my darlings!

I hope this blog finds you happy and in good spirits!

If you’re not in good spirits, perhaps you and/or your life is tipping out of balance. Perhaps you’ve failed to notice the gradual changes that undeniably occur when we are disconnected from our mind, body and spirit. When this occurs, it’s safe to say that our minds ruminate and our lives feel like we are on a perpetual hamster wheel… spinning, spinning, spinning!

A common practice in yoga class is to be still and connect to our breath. After a few lengthy and deep inhalations and exhalations, we are encouraged to check in with our mind, our body, and our spirit. In doing so, we are able to tap into our thoughts, the sensations in our bodies and the emotions that rise up to the surface.

Our attention is a muscle that, once exercised, can reap wonderful rewards. The more we practice being still and checking in with our feelings, our thoughts, and our surroundings, the more we are able to be present in our bodies as well as in our relationships. And…. the more we are able to connect with Source- “the infinite all” and our higher self.

Today’s society, the happenings in our world and government, and the constant overflow of information that is in our in boxes and on our devices, contribute to the constant simulation of our senses. As a result, we feel a mental overload of huge proportions. Without tools that allow us to sort through the noise, mental clutter and stimulus, we are doomed to feel like our life is spinning out of control. We seem to be doing, doing, doing instead of being, being, being!

Our nervous system is so flooded with cortisol, that we operate from “fight or flight” mode” as opposed to “rest and digest” mode.

If we have any hopes of living a more gracious, connected, joyous, balanced, and peaceful life, we must remove ourselves from this state of overwhelming busyness. We MUST allow ourselves the time and the space to disconnect.

In doing so, we are affording ourselves the opportunity to be, see, hear and feel.

A simple thing we can do at the end of a difficult, challenging, or trying day, is to notice how our body feels. This is one way we can strengthen our attention muscle. Over time, and with practice, it becomes second nature…. trust me!

So where do we start?

-We start by setting aside uninterrupted time to check in. This means powering off our devices or placing them on airplane mode.

-Find a place to sit quietly and comfortably.

– After a few deep cleansing breaths, notice where your body feels constricted.

– Where is it that you hold on to stress or discomfort in your body?

-What do you feel?

-Allow yourself to feel and, If you are compelled to write, journal what ever arose during this time you took to scan your body.

-The more you do this throughout your day, the more you are in your body and the more equipped you become at addressing these areas in your body.

We can look at this practice as a gift we give ourselves. Being able to be in our bodies- distraction free- is a gift. It’s a necessity. It’s life altering. It allows us to be aware of thoughts that may not serve us and encourage us to reprogram our brain with thoughts that enhance our wellbeing.

It has been proven that the quality of our life is connected with our ability to tune in and pay attention. Multitasking, 24/7 connection, fatigued adrenals, and exhaustion do not make for a badge of honor. On the contrary, radical self-care allows us to live a more deeply satisfying life.

So what are some activities that allow us to be in our bodies and add to our well-being? Activities that allow us to care for our inner child?

The following suggestions come directly from someone I follow on IG because I love how she is using her social media platform to help us to heal and consciously create a new version of ourselves (check out the.holistic.psychologist on the gram).

  • Go for a walk or a hike
  • Do yoga
  • Meditate
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Listen to an educational podcast
  • Go to “Youtube University”
  • See a therapist/energy worker/healer
  • Connect with someone you love
  • Spend 15 minutes in total silence
  • Do a tough work out
  • Plan a “staycation”

And what are some of my favorite things to do when I am feeling exhausted or spread too thin, or have had a long day? In addition to the suggestions above, I enjoy soaking in an Epson salt, essential oils infused tub. Sometimes I even throw in fresh flowers. I make sure to light a candle and drink plenty of water when I am soaking (wine on some occasions). Doing a few restorative yoga poses before bed is a must for me, especially after a soak in the tub. I also like to spend a few hours in silence. At times, I purposely shut off the phone. Taking a walk in nature is something I enjoy as well. Getting to bed earlier than usual is a delightful and indulgent treat. And, as you can surmise, journaling is at the top of my list…wink, wink! Writing in my gratitude journal is something I try and do in the evenings as soon as I get in bed.

What are your coping mechanisms when dealing with difficult situations or emotions? What activities allow you to feel renewed or recharged? What practices do you have that allow you to connect to Source?

My darlings, tough times call for tough measures. In order to be our best selves and show up fully engaged and passionately committed to ourselves and for the greater good of all beings, we need to make our self-care a priority. In doing so, we will strengthen our attention muscle in a way that will allow us to live a life of balance, purpose and meaning!

The following is a piece that one of my yoga teachers read to us while we were in savasana. It comes from Danna Fauld’s book, What’s True Here, New Poems and Other Writings. May you be renewed by it as much as I was upon hearing the words!

Renewed by Source

Just as the the steady rain quenches the earths thirst, so too am I renewed by source energy through stillness and through prayer. Without a daily connection to silence, I can’t hear the guidance or feel the love that always moves inside me. The balance of being and doing seems and entirely beyond reach until I grow quiet and allow a wisdom far greater than my own to lead me home.

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace and Gratitude, JTC

Mind over Matter

“The real meditation is how you live your life.” Job Kabat-Zin

Jon Kabat-Zin is known as the Godfather of modern Western mindfulness meditation. He’s been preaching and teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for decades. This is a program that teaches us mindfulness skills to use in our daily lives.

I had the pleasure of seeing him at an Omega Institute Being Yoga Conference many years ago where he was one of the keynote speakers. It was so impactful to see and witness how “present” and powerful he was. Even when silent, and scanning the audience as he made eye contact, he exuded power and presence.

I recall remarking to myself that I wanted to have this effect whenever I had to speak before a large crowd. I wanted to drink the “mindfulness cool-aid.” And that I did because, ever since then, one of my daily goals and aspirations in life has been to show up and be present wherever and with whomever I am.

Being able to stay afloat in today’s world, and having tools to self-regulate, was part of several conversations I had with a couple of friends this past weekend. Everything today is fast and furious, and the sands of time seem to be slipping by rapidly. Having tools, and utilizing them, can help us to slow down, regroup, regain some clarity, enjoy time with friends and loved ones and even strengthen relationships.

The point of being mindful is to live in the moment and appreciate whatever it is that shows up without having a meltdown or feeling like we’re just spiraling into a dark abyss. In order to do this, we must be mindful or “in the moment.” We must allow ourselves opportunities to “land and arrive” in our bodies and then be fully aware of whatever it is we are doing in that moment. Even sipping tea, washing dishes, or cutting vegetables are all opportunities for us to be present and focus on what we are doing.

So…..after a weekend of much conversation, home-made scrumptious food and jokingly “trying to solve the problems of the world,” I chuckled as I came across the latest issue of Breathe magazine. It is appropriately titled The Mindfulness Special.

If you’ve never held this beautiful magazine in your hands, I suggest you treat yourself to one. The magazine contains articles on wellness, kindness, mindfulness and inspiration…. right up my alley! It’s filled with practical, short pieces that allow us to inhale and exhale deeply. I guess that is why the magazine is called Breathe.

I decided to peruse it when I got on the train for my ride home from visiting my friends this past weekend. As I flipped through the articles and the pages, I came to the back of the magazine. I took the time to read Mind over Matter because it was all quotes, from a variety of people, designed to inspire us to live in the moment. Who doesn’t love a good quote?

I, for one, am a sucker for good quotes; so, in the spirit of stewardship, love, caring and sharing, I will leave you all with these precious gems that will allow you to pause, land, arrive, inhale and exhale deeply.

Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more. Mother Teresa

Training your mind to be in the present moment is the number one key to making healthier choices. Susan Albers

In today’s rush, we all think too much, seek too much, want to much, and forget about the joy of just being. Eckhart Tolle

Nothing can dim the light that shines from within. Maya Angelou

Our own worst enemy cannot harm us as much as our unwise thoughts. No one can help us as much as our own compassionate thoughts. Buddha

Look for the answer inside your question. Rumi

Pure awareness transcends thinking. It allows you to step outside the chattering negative self-talk and your reactive impulses and emotions. It allows you to look at the world once again with open eyes. And when you do so, a sense of wonder and quiet contentment begins to reappear in your life. Mark Williams

The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear. Prasad Mahes

Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it’s outside when it is inside. Ramana Maharshi

Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance. Amit Ray

The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little. Jon Kabat-Zin

Mind is a flexible mirror, adjust it, to see a better world. Amit Ray

Mindfulness is like that-it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life. Thich Nhat Hanh

Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So relax. Bryant McGill

Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without figuring it will always be the way (which it won’t). James Baraz

It is my hope that the above quotes touch something in all of us, and that we all continue to inspire, love, serve AND lead from the heart… right from the start!

Breathe…

Inhale Love and Light… Exhale Grace and Gratitude, JTC

Full of Truth

Darling, you feel heavy because you are too full of truth. Open your mouth more, let the truth exist somewhere other than inside your body.” -Della Hicks-Wilson

Greetings, my darlings!

I was listening to a meditation recently that got me thinking on the subject of joy, creativity, and truth. These are a few ways in which we can manifest and cultivate happiness at all times.

We all know the famous saying, “Happiness comes from within.” Unless we take the time to sit in stillness and cultivate each of these areas, we will always be searching for happiness “out there.” Exactly where is out there? That’s an easy one to answer. Out there are the places and the vices that we turn to when we are not plugged in and connected with our Self, our essence, our creativity, our voice and, most importantly, our truth.

I invite us all to ask ourselves how we feel, and what are the things we do and say, when we are not plugged in and connected? How do we feel knowing we have truths, gifts, creativity, joys as well as sadness that are in need of expressing but are sitting dormant in our souls? What do we find ourselves thinking? How does this translate to our daily existence, habits and patterns?

Personally speaking, I know I do not make the most evolutionary choices when I am not connected and in my flow. However, I’m also aware that, at any given moment, I am able to self correct and make a better choice that is for my highest good and the highest good of all parties involved. That’s when magic happens!

Who doesn’t want a little bit more magic and happiness in their world? I’ll share a little secret with you… the magic of happiness occurs when our truth and creativity are aligned. It’s a win-win situation!

I invite you to take a moment and ponder the following questions. You may even want to return to them later on and jot down the thoughts that have shown up:

  • How do you use your voice?
  • How do you express yourself throughout the day?
  • How do you express yourself on social media?
  • Do the words you use unite and bring together, or divide and separate? Do they express love and creativity or fear and hatred?
  • What gifts do you have that can be of service to others?
  • How do you honor of yourself and your creativity?
  • What are your creative outlets?
  • What words do you use with your Self?
  • Does your throat feel constricted when you are not speaking your truth or coming from a place of authenticity?
  • What sensations do you feel in your body when your truth is being compromised and your creativity stifled?

If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that it takes a great amount of energy to restrict the natural flow of our creativity, thoughts, and feelings. We’ve all been there, and it’s fatiguing! This, my darlings, is what zaps the magic and happiness out of our lives.

This is the heavy weight we feel dragging us to to deeper and deeper levels of despair. And when we are in the depths of despair, we say and do ugly things. But…. despair no longer! For this is a wonderful time of the year to review and assess any and all areas of our life that could use a little more truth and joy. All we need to do is to get real with ourselves. Perhaps even tap into a friend to help us stay accountable. Any step in the right direction is the right direction!

Having said that, the first step truly involves going within. And if you are new to this, it could be a tad scary. This is the time when we get to identify any areas in our lives that may be out of balance or in conflict.

It’s a time we ask ourselves if we are living to our highest potential and feel that whatever it is we are doing is of value and purpose. It’s a time we take a good hard look at our relationships with the people in our lives. It’s a time when we examine our jobs or careers and how they are impacting our state of mind, health and well-being. It’s a time we assess, get clear, and move towards articulating exactly what it is we need and want to do. It is the time we let the truth exist somewhere other than inside our body.

I’m not going to lie… it’s hard work, darlings. but only we can do it for ourselves. If you feel compelled to dig and delve a bit deeper into your heart and soul, you may want to check out my blog Now I know my ABC’s. The questions contained in that blog really require us to get to the core of who we are…both our light and shadow side. And my previous blog, New Beginnings, contains a vision board check list if we want to get creative with our intentions, goals, dreams, aspirations and to the truths of who we are. Personally, I find images and pictures help me to articulate my intentions in a deeper and more meaningful way.

Here to us, our journeys and our truths!

Inhale Love & Light… Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

Secrets of Inner Peace

“There is a criterion by which you can judge whether the thoughts you are thinking and the things you are doing are right for you. The criterion is: Have they brought you inner peace?”  Peace Pilgrim

Ever since I was a little girl (elementary school age) growing up in Jersey City, NJ, I was drawn to The Novelty Shop which used to be near Journal Square and on my way home from school. I was drawn to all things peace and love related, incense, oils, beads, etc. They also sold pipes, bongs and rolling paper, which is probably the reason my strict, Cuban mother did NOT like me frequenting that store. Who knows what fear-based “story” she was telling herself and getting wrapped into.

So, it’s no wonder that I’ve always been a love, peace and gratitude junkie- and even more so as I’ve become a “woman of a particular age.” As we all come to learn at one point or another in our lives, it all boils down to “choices” and “lifestyle.”  For me, there is no other way. Anything and anyone that disrupts my peace has to go. Now that may sound cruel to some, selfish to others; however, it is called self-preservation and part of the self-love, compassion and respect we establish for ourselves. It’s also part of healthy boundary setting. I don’t know about you, but I guard my inner peace like it’s nobody’s business.

Why? Because like many of us, I have the battle scars to show for the times I wasn’t knowledgeable, conscientious and skilled at the importance of guarding my inner peace like a precious gem or sacred temple. Guarding our inner peace is an art we must  learn to master. Like Maya Angelou is known for saying, “When you know better, you do better.”

Since December is a mere 3 days away (where did this year go?), and people are already feeling and expressing the anxiety and stress that sadly comes with the holidays (shouldn’t we all be ENJOYING the holidays?), I want to share with you some principles that we can look at, contemplate and practice each day in December (and throughout the new year for that matter). I happened to come across a little book the other day, and it was the inspiration for this blog. I purchased it in 1999 when I was up at Yale, in New Haven CT, for some training. This little 4×4 gem was written by J. Donald Walters and is titled Secrets of Inner Peace. 

For several years after purchasing this book, I kept it on my bathroom counter and looked at it every single morning and in the evenings. I made a concerted effort to practice these thoughts/concepts…many which were new to me given my age and where I was along my spiritual journey at the time. As with affirmations and mantras, the key is to go back to them throughout the course of our days, look at them, say them out loud, repeat them silently and, as the author suggests, “While falling asleep, carry the words into your subconscious, absorbing their positive influence into your whole being. Let it become thereby an integral part of your normal consciousness.”

My darlings, below are 31 precious thoughts that we can all contemplate and utilize each and every day starting December 1st. Over time, you will see and feel a shift in your be-ingness, thoughts, perception, disposition and even your actions. These statements/thoughts are tools we can refer to continuously. Over time, and with active practice, they become integrated and are part of our operating system. Furthermore, they are seeds that we can choose to water each day and watch them blossom into the most beautiful expressions of love and inner peace.

The Secret of Inner Peace

  1. …is self-control: not scattering your energies, but holding them in check and directing them usefully.
  2. …is giving full, interested attention to everything you do.
  3. …is to live fully in the moment, releasing past and future into the cycles of eternity.
  4. …is inner relaxation- physically, emotionally, mentally then spiritually.
  5. …is non-attachment; being ever conscious that nothing and no one truly belongs to you.
  6. …is contentment: consciously holding happy thoughts.
  7. …is desirelessness: realizing that happiness is within you, not in outward things or circumstances.
  8. …accepting things as they are, and then, if necessary, acting calmly to improve them.
  9. …is realizing that you cannot change the world, but you can change yourself.
  10. …is cultivating harmonious friendships, and shunning the company of peaceless persons.
  11. …is projecting peace outward into your environment.
  12. …is a simple life; reducing your definition of “necessities.”
  13. …is a healthy life: exercising regularly, eating properly, and breathing deeply.
  14. …is a clear conscience; remaining true to your highest ideals.
  15. …is acting in freedom, from your inner center, and not in bondage to the world’s demands. 
  16. …is accepting truth, in all circumstances, as your guide.
  17. …is not coveting what others have, but knowing what is yours by right will find its way to you.
  18. …is never complaining, but acknowledging that what life gives you depends on what you give, first, of yourself.
  19. … is accepting responsibility for your failures, and realizing that only you can turn them into successes.
  20. …is found in self-conquest, not in the mere cessation of hostilities. 
  21. …is practicing willingness, even though your mental habits urge you to cry, “No!”
  22. …is smiling in your heart, even when others scowl.
  23. …is giving joy, rather than demanding joy of others.
  24. …is including others’ well-being in your own.
  25. …is harmlessness: never deliberately hurting anyone.
  26. …is working with others, never against them.
  27. …is meditation, and tapping into the  wellsprings of soul-peace.
  28. …is raising your consciousness: directing energy to the brain, then centering it at the seat of higher awareness between the eyebrows.
  29. …is self-acceptance: not blinding yourself to your faults, nor hating yourself for them, but claiming your higher reality in Infinite Light.
  30. …is loving God, and striving to be worthy of His love for you.
  31. …is loving others impartially, without selfish motive.

As I was typing, I surprised myself by how I was able to finish, or come close, to finishing each thought. I even recalled certain circumstances, events and people whom were challenging me throughout different times and how I was practicing  these principles.  It’s a testament to the power of affirmations as well as the power of conscious choice-making. The more we practice affirmations and act on them, the more we re-wire our brains and the more these affirmations become our default setting. These Secrets of Inner Peace will change your life. Wouldn’t you agree that we Can all use a little more peace in our every day lives? Remember, the power is within you!

In the days, weeks and months ahead, may we all find ourselves tapping into the plethora of tools and practices that we have cultivated over the years, and may we “choose” our thoughts, words and actions wisely. I hope these Secrets of Inner Peace will be your trusted companions and guide you along your journey.

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

Succulent and Wild at Any Age

“I think it’s easy to stop ourselves from being too bright, too happy, too successful. Conformity also soothes us. We can predict it, and there is an illusion of control. Unfortunately, we also stop ourselves from being too visible, unusual or vivid.” SARK

How many times has someone remarked, “You are too much,” and you know it wasn’t in a fun way? How many times have you stopped yourself from being too loud, too different or too much?

In her lovely and colorful book , Succulent Wild Woman, by SARK (which I mentioned in my previous blog), she goes on to state how we crave our individuality, our wild, special selves, and how we want to live out adventures and be seen for our essences. Is  that not the truth? Is that not the hero’s journey? Is that not why we fight tooth and nail?

Yet, how many of us allow other people, as well as these people’s own issues and/or insecurities, to diminish our greatness, our individuality and extinguish our light? Who are these people anyway? Why do we allow them to take our power away? Why do we permit them to zap our joy? Furthermore, why are we stopping ourselves from being who we were brought here to be? The struggle in this arena is real my darlings!

This is a topic I am certain we all find ourselves talking about and struggling with regardless our age and stage in life. So,  I am going to keep this blog short and sweet because I want to hammer home a very important message. A message for all women of all ages out there as well as the men out there who are raising young girls. We must cease telling young girls and women that they are “too much!”

In doing so, a little light in their heart of hearts gets extinguished more and more until nothing is left. No self-worth, no creativity, no joy, no aliveness, no zest for life, no vitality, and no purpose or sense of belonging. Instead, they get infused with feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, sadness,  aloneness, isolation and emptiness. And, by the way, this goes for young boys and men too (I just happen to love to support and empower the youngest of girls as well as the oldest of women).

The following are some additional golden nuggets from SARK’s book that can guide us to being succulent and wild at any age (if you missed my last blog, Living a Succulent Life, you may want to check it out):

The definition of a Succulent Wild Woman: A woman of any age who feels free to FULLY express herself in EVERY dimension of her life.

A note to young or not yet formed succulent wild women: Stand firm and whole as a woman. You are precious and irreplaceable. Treasure your female self. Choose innocence. Invent ways to feel more free. Investigate your darknesses.

A note to those who love succulent wild women: Learn thoroughly your own female side. Support freedom and release judgements. Be sexual only mutually. Let go of fears. Speak respectfully. Spend real, intimate time with women. 

What do you say? Let’s take it easy on ourselves and on the women around us. Lets encourage each other whenever possible. Let’s call each other out when we are not showering our Selves with love or speaking in a self-deprecating manner. Let’s catch ourselves when we are about to say something disparaging or unfavorable about our own Self. Let’s color outside the lines. Let’s live out loud. Let’s be bold. Let’s be brave. Let’s be fearless. Let’s be juicy.  Let’s be flashy, eccentric, gregarious, or outlandish. Let’s be real. Let’s be raw. Let’s be relevant. Let’s be whomever we want to be….whenever we want! Oh, and those people who think we are too much??? As the saying goes, “They’re not our people.” Cut them loose darlings, for they are not serving your highest good. Trust me. Better yet, trust your instincts!

In a nutshell, we can be wild, free and succulent regardless of our age and stage in life. Carry on…wink wink!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

 

 

 

 

 

My Guest Blogger… Act III

Sister Mother Friend

by Shannon Green

Sister: Technically I AM a sister. I have an older brother, but growing up I always wanted a sister. My brother was into sports, and I liked dolls and dress–up. Occasionally, we would play games together, ride bikes, do sibling-type things, and we would get along; but he would also tease me endlessly, and I remember tears flowing on many occasions.  Because we were not very close, I learned to play alone and entertain myself. As we got older, the teasing stopped and we just became two people living in rooms next to each other.

We were a grade apart in school and, once I started high school, we sometimes even shared classes. I definitely got the feeling that my big brother did not like me being in any of his classes. I don’t remember him ever taking me under his wing, showing me around, or introducing me to people. What I do remember are other kids coming up to me in the hallway asking me why I didn’t come with my brother to a certain party… feeling a little embarrassed and let down I would reply, “because he didn’t tell me about it.” I knew other sibling combinations at school where the older sibling looked after the younger, brought them to parties, acted like friends, and it definitely made me sad to realize that my brother seemed to prefer not to have me around. We were more like strangers who just happened to share the same last name and live in the same house. I distinctly remember being incredibly happy my senior year because my brother was going to be at college and I would now have the bathroom all to myself!  I can honestly admit that I did not miss him while he was gone.

As the years passed our relationship continued to change, and we grew a bit closer.  There was even a time in my late 20s when my husband and I lived with my brother in California. This time period probably brought us closer than any other, and I think we now even have a friendship, albeit a strange one where we rarely talk and still don’t share personal feelings. My brother even surprised me one time by calling me his “best-friend.”  Wow! I felt honored.

My brother is a very busy person, and we don’t see each other often. We mainly talk when I call him, but occasionally he surprises me with a phone call or random text message. I worry about him living alone, eating right and exercising enough, but I know he will never listen to his little sister. So, while I technically am a “sister,” I still  feel like I missed out on something by growing up with a brother. I always wished to have a “sister” of my very own … someone I could talk to about “girl” things, ask advice, share clothes, etc… older, younger, doesn’t matter. In my mind there seems to be a special bond between sisters, and I have always longed for it.

Mother: Yes, I have a mother. NO, I am NOT a mother. Growing up I remember always wanting to be near my mother. I wanted to cuddle and hug her. I wanted her affection and to feel safe. I was often shy, especially in new situations, and I remember I would try hiding behind my mother’s legs so people wouldn’t talk to me. I also vividly remember hearing her say things to me like “stop hanging on me” or “stop being so sensitive”.… I wish I had more memories of us doing things together and having special “mother/daughter” time, but I don’t. I do remember her taking time to be my Girl Scout Leader and that she volunteered as a Class Mom at my elementary school, but one memory that never seems to fade is that, during the four years I was on our High School Swim Team, she never came to one of my meets. This always makes me sad when I think about that.

I have a lot of hang ups about my relationship with my mother. I don’t feel like she has ever known who I am or ever tried to get to know me. Probably the most painful memory is the time I called her extremely upset about a very personal incident that had occurred. My husband and I had been hoping to start a family, but it just was not happening. As you can imagine, this was an upsetting time in my life and very emotional and stressful. On this particular day, we had just received news that my husband’s younger brother had gotten his girl-friend pregnant. I was devastated. I had dreamed for so long of starting a family and having the first grandchild in the family, and now it seemed like my dreams were crushed.

My heart was broken, and I felt like it had literally been ripped in two. I called my mother to talk to her, hoping to get some motherly love. As I was telling my mom the situation and waiting for her to offer me some compassion and love, the only thing I remember her telling me was that I needed to “get over it.” That is the memory I have… Those are the words I remember…  Maybe there were more words in the conversation, but I think I stopped listening after that. My heart was broken, and I was crushed by her words and lack of empathy and love. At a time when I really needed love and support, my own mother seemed to be invalidating my feelings as she told me to stop being so sensitive and just “get over it.”

That was the day I stopped telling my mother anything personal about myself. I tried for a while to see if I could change our relationship and make it more a little more friendly.  I knew people who talked to their mothers daily and had nice friendly conversations about life and personal issues, so I made it a point to call her frequently hoping that she would start to enjoy talking to me and reach out to me in return. But she never did. At one point, I was so distraught as to why my mother just did not seem to love me that I reached out to my brother. Since he was the only other person who knew her like I did I figured he might have some insight.  It was that conversation that made me realize she did love me and that she was loving me, but in her way, and I accepted that she was probably doing the very best she could. It was just that our styles of “love” are so completely different and, unfortunately for me, it just wasn’t the love that I craved or needed.

That conversation with my brother changed the way I viewed my Mom and helped me release the resentment I felt towards our relationship. Sometimes. we may not think that people love us when the reality is that they are doing the best that they can with what they have. The truth is that she is giving me the love she is capable of giving me, and I cannot be angry with her for doing her best. We may not have the mother/daughter relationship that I have always wanted, but I accept it for what it is and have released the belief that she does not love me. Arriving at that realization shifted something inside of me and helped me accept our relationship for what it is rather than what I wished it was.

Friend: Some people don’t like the kind of friend I am. Maybe I scare them off with my personality? I believe that I can come off as too needy, too bossy, and a bit of a know-it-all. Over the years I have realized these harsher parts of my personality, and I have worked on them. I think I have become a “softer” version of myself as I have matured. I have realized that I can be a bit much to handle, but I have also realized that some people just aren’t meant to be in your life for the long haul, while others are with you for a lifetime.

As a result, the friends I have are limited in quantity, but are of EXTREMELY HIGH quality. To say I love them like family is probably an understatement because I think I love them more than my family. These are the people who “get me.” They are the ones who stick around through the ups and downs. They know my struggles and successes. They are the ones I call crying or with whom I want to share good news.  They are the ones who provide support and bolster me up when I am having a rough time.

Over the years, we have stuck by each other on our respective journeys and evolution as human beings. We are miles apart in location but always just a phone call away. Throughout the years, our shared interests have brought us to similar paths as we explore the meaning of life and our purpose on Earth. These amazing women have become my “soul sisters.” In them I found what I was always craving as a child. I found big sisters and little sisters. In them I have found mothers and have been able to be a mother as well.

Recently, I read something that really helped put things into perspective. My friend Christy encouraged me (rather enthusiastically) to buy the book The Archetype Diet by Dana James. In the book the author talks about 4 archetypes of women. Very interesting stuff…I highly recommend the read. Upon reading the book and the description of the various archetypes I discovered, surprisingly to me, that I would be classified as “The Nurturer.”  The following passage describing the Nurturer Archetype really hit me, like an arrow in a bullseye:

“Because she was deprived of the maternal attention young girls need, she learned to fill this void by protecting and nurturing others, especially taking on the role of mother she lacked. Although the recipients of her nurturing could not make up for the failing of her own mother, she depended on them to give her the acceptance she so craved. By showing love to others, she hoped to get it in return.”  

After reading this passage, I realized that it described me to a tee! It was as if my whole life now made sense! Why I always wanted to check in on people and make sure that they were doing well. Why I always wanted to help my friends be successful, even back in high school helping them with homework or studying for a test. In college, I would be the one to drive to a party to make sure everyone got there and home safely. Why I always double checked that no one left anything behind, made sure people had enough to eat, and weather-appropriate clothing. Why I always felt drawn to take care of people and why I want to be there for them when they are having a difficult time, needing advice, needing to vent, needing to cry, or needing a hug.

According to Dana James’ chapter, The Nurturer:

Showing affection for others and caring for them is your gift and it should be celebrated. But choose the recipients wisely. Pause before you bestow your kindness, time, love, or money. Ask yourself if this person genuinely needs your help or if they can handle things on their own.”

It suddenly made sense. Why there were some people who seemed put-off when I tried to offer help. They didn’t want it. They didn’t need it, but I couldn’t see it. These past few years have helped me to understand many things about myself and, as I mentioned earlier, I feel like I have become a “softer” version of myself. I am working on my “hard edges” and learning to develop things like patience, managing expectations, and letting go of things I cannot control. I am filling my tool box with the help of Yaya and her book suggestions, but also with the time I set aside to read, journal and meditate. I have taken myself on as a student, teaching myself as I am learning and honestly trying to be the best version of myself I can imagine.

As a result, I have found that my relationships have improved. My friendships have deepened. I have become able to offer my help to those who genuinely seem willing to accept it, and it fills my heart with such love knowing that I am able to help… whether it is on the receiving end of a phone call or creating a spreadsheet. I told my friend Christy once that I did not know what my purpose in this life was, and that the only thing I wanted most and that I enjoyed the most was helping those I love. She was quiet for a moment and then said, “That is your purpose. Your purpose doesn’t have to be your job.”  I have to say that I think I absolutely agree with her.

I do not think it can be better expressed than in the below passage which closes out “The Nurturer” Chapter in The Archetype Diet:

“Embracing the positive attributes of the other archetypes will help you achieve balance and rise to the crown… When you layer in these attributes, you will transform from a Nurturer seeking to heal your childhood wounds to a woman who heals the world with her loving presence, compassion, dignity, and nobility.”

Sister Mother Friend….I have found these. I have become these. In my “Vibe Tribe” (the named bestowed to our retreat group back in April from the outstanding owner of the amazing Pranamar Villas Yoga Retreat Center in Costa Rica), I have found my FAMILY.  I feel loved. I feel understood and accepted in a way I never did before. Even more importantly, I feel these things from myself.

I now realize that I cannot put expectations on my relationships with people, whether it is my brother, mother, or friends. I must accept that what they are giving to the relationship may be the very most they have to offer at that moment. The most important person whose love I need to feel, and whose support I need in my life, is ME. In giving my love and support to others freely and openly, with no strings and expectations, I have found the love I always felt was missing. I have found a peace in my relationships and appreciate them for what they are –  not what I wish they would be. By letting go of how I thought things should be and accepting things for what they are, I have been able to find joy in those hard relationships that used to bring me pain.

You can’t be everything to everybody, and they can’t be everything to you. Sometimes, you find the love of a mother in someone who was just a stranger to you five years ago, and the relationship of a sister in a friend you have known for over two decades. Blood does not make the relationship. Accepting people for who they are, and releasing the expectations I set on them. created what I can only call “freedom” for me. By accepting situations for what they are, I now find myself less worried over outcomes and more able to enjoy the present. I find there to be far fewer conflicts in my relationships and much more peace and harmony.

Relationships, whether family or friend, are never easy. But I truly believe they can be made more harmonious.

  • Is there someone you wish you had a different relationship with?
  • Are you willing to try things in a new way?
  • Are you placing expectations on the relationship that is creating discomfort for you?
  • Can you release those expectations and instead accept that what is being given to you is the very best that can be given at the moment?
  • Have you examined your relationship with the most important person in your life, yourself?

Wishing you peace and love in all of your relationships!

I’m here if you need me…Your sister mother and friend, Blondie

 

 

Living with Joy

“A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love” Mother Teresa

I truly believe we are wired for happiness as it is part of who we are innately. If you missed Sunday’s blog, Happiness is an Inside Job, kindly check it out. It’s sort of the pre-cursor to this post on Joy.

Joy is the feeling….the expression of  happiness. Much has been written about Joy. One thing that seems to be a common thread on the subject is that Joy is something that we choose and have to keep choosing time and time again despite the catastrophic events that may be going on in and around our life and the fear, stress, anger, grief, illness and death we all experience. We can look at these life events as Obstacles to Joy, as the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu call them in their groundbreaking book, Lasting Happiness in a Changing World – The Book of Joy (a wonderful, funny, touching and inspiring read by the way). Or, we can look at these obstacles as opportunities to allow us to tap into that love and happiness in our heart and feel those moments of Joy that are always present. We just need to consciously choose to “linger” in those moments. Lingering in those moments of Joy, however brief or fleeting they may seems at first, is something Sheryl Sandberg talks about in her amazing book, Option B (another great read and resource). When we take the time to be still and sit in silence, we experience how love, gratitude, grace, and happiness permeate our mind and body. All those “feel good” chemicals get released into our bodies, and we feel that sense of elation and joy. It’s truly a no brainer. If we can constantly bring ourselves back to our true nature, which is love, happiness and joy show up!

Regardles of what we have going on in our lives, we can make the conscious choice to feel, create and spread happiness and joy. We either choose to be happy or not. When we are mindful, awake, and present to the events that are unfolding, we can approach each activity, chore, task, and even challenge from a place of happiness, reverence, gratitude….almost like a meditation in action. And what happens when we do so? We feel a deep sense of Joy! Furthermore, we can  feel peaceful, calm, serene and at ease even when circumstances around us or in our life are not peaceful.

Living from a  state of consciousness, choosing to create and spread happiness and live fully in our life is much grander than seeing life as an accident of “random forces.” Seeing life from a place of completeness signifies wholeness, and that is a space where we can live. Being in this space allows us to see the love, abundance, wealth, beauty, magic and joy in all areas of our life. More importantly, it allows us to operate from that place of abundant joy and happiness as opposed to scarcity and sadness. At any moment in time, regardless of whatever turmoil or chaos is around us, we can connect to our heart and the love, bliss and happiness which is our internal state of being. Remember, it is a choice that only we can make!

Joy is probably one of the most powerful emotions we can feel when we give freely of ourselves. Giving is a two way street and brings both the giver and the receiver much Joy. Can you think of a time you were able to give someone the support or words of wisdom they needed at just the right time? How did they feel? How did this exchange of energy make you feel? I bet hearts were full of joy! This reminds me of a beautiful quote by the late, great Maya Angelou, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” 

Given the state of affairs swirling around us these days, it is imperative that we do all we can to live in, create and spread Happiness and Joy any way we can. We are each uniquely different and creative in our own ways. We have talents, gifts and abilities that differ person to person. Our jobs, careers, positions and roles in our family allow us a platform to be the change, create and spread Happiness and Joy. Embrace this privilege my darlings! Let’s make a conscious choice to enjoy each and every day and discover more Joy in our lives. Repressing joy, even during difficult times, is not a wise thing to do nor a healthy way to live. We can find, create, appreciate, spread and be grateful for Joy during the most challenging times in our life. These challenging times are when we must “linger” in those moments of Joy.

I invite you to take a moment and reflect on ways you can find, create, appreciate, spread and be grateful for Joy. Tap into that burning love in your heart, and let it guide your way!

 

Inhale Love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC

 

 

Happiness is an Inside Job

“If you want instant happiness, the secret is to open your heart and give freely without any expectations. The intention behind your giving is the  most important thing for when you give unconditionally and from the heart, the energy and joy in the art of giving increases many times over.” Chopra Center Happiness Series

Have you ever listened to someone say, “I want to find happiness” or perhaps found yourself uttering those words? Sometimes we expend so much energy on that “quest for happiness” when, in reality, it’s been inside us all along. We tend to treat happiness as if it’s this mysterious state that can only be attained by looking and searching for it in the external world or something that only “another person” can make us; yet, it’s a superpower we’ve had all along and one that has been sitting in the middle of our chest since birth. The source of all happiness, is found in the heart. Once we learn to open our hearts to the love and compassion that reside within, we really step into and embrace this superpower.

Years ago, I participated in an 8 week online event given by the Chopra Center. It was called The Happiness Series. Each week explored a different component, and one of them was called Open Your Heart. That particular week, we looked at and explored what they called four intangibles that really bring people happiness. They are Attention, Appreciation, Affection and Acceptance. If we look at these as gifts from the heart, set intentions to practice them, and pay attention to the feelings, sensations and emotions that arise when doing so, we will find our heart opening more and more over time. With the passing of time, and the more we practice these four intangibles, we will actually “feel” our heart center getting wider and more expansive.  The key is to remember to give these gifts freely and without expectation (yes, without any expectation at all).

Characteristics of the four intangibles / gifts of the heart:

Attention– Deep listening, presence, being open, understanding the other person’s perspective – even if we don’t agree with it, not giving advice (unless asked), not  interrupting (we’re all guilty of doing this). By listening attentively to someone, we are actually helping to calm their brain (the amygdala in particular as it is the center for emotions).

Appreciation– Letting someone know you value them and are grateful they are in your life, appreciating them for who they are (the qualities you love about them).

Affection– Caring deeply, expressing it through words, physical touch, and/or other actions, being there for them (loving touch is vital – it releases pain and mood elevating chemicals throughout the body).

Acceptance– Seeing and accepting someone completely even with all their weaknesses, inconsistencies and shortcomings (one of the most deepest human needs).

In light of everything going on in our world today, Mother Nature is really calling us to step up. Yes, prayer is good, but our actions are more powerful, impactful, life altering and much needed! It starts with each and every one of us wanting to take part in the healing of our world. How do we step up? Where do we start? How can we navigate the madness, destruction, devastation and crisis humanity is experiencing? It simply starts with our willingness to open our hearts! I invite you to focus on consciously opening your heart this coming week in ways that perhaps you’ve never done before. Set the intention to weave those four intangibles into your every day existence and watch what happens. You may even want to keep a journal / list of your experiences, the thoughts, emotions, and sensations that show up for you (oh, and they will show up, the good, bad and everything in between – just hold the space for it in your heart center). Perhaps you’d like to keep a gratitude journal or even write a thank you letter to someone you deeply care about, admire, has inspired you, challenged you or is struggling with a life event. These are just a few ways that you can incorporate Attention, Affection, Appreciation and Acceptance in your daily life. If you sit and tap into your creativity, I am certain you will come up with your own unique ways to offer your gifts of the heart.

However you choose to document, memorialize and personalize your experiences, one thing will be certain: this art of giving unconditionally without expectation, and from the heart, will impact you in unimaginable ways. It will also trickle down to the people around you and will impact them as well. You will find yourself feeling lighter, happier and joyful.  If and when someone says, “I want to find true happiness,” you can look right in their eyes, and with a whole lot of love, compassion, understanding and a heart wide open, you will confidently respond with, “Happiness is an inside job all you have to do is open your heart!

My darlings, inspire, love, serve with a heart wide open. Be that light that lights the way for others, and be the change this world so desperately needs. Every single day and encounter presents us with an opportunity to lead from the heart…right from the start. Please use your Superpower always and in all ways!

Inhale Love… Exhale Gratitude, JTC